The Name is Worth A Million Times the Spirit (Essay #5)


 

I saw a blog post in a city magazine website about a small demonstration. The demonstrators, who were also suspected of being part of a marketing scheme, were demanding that government use Cachaca (Ka-sha-ka) as the name of a liquor instead of referring to it as “Brazilian rum.” The government makes strange rules sometimes but they make sense at times also. Cachaca is the name for a spirit local to Brazil. The demonstrators claim the Brazilians drink huge quantities regularly thus a big deal what Cachaca is called in US. This comes as no surprise because the population of Brazil is large and every culture has a local alcoholic beverage that is consumed in large quantities. This common beverage is usually made from some local agricultural product that is abundant, cheap and suitable. Tequila is made from Cactus. Vodka is made from potatoes. Rum is made from sugar canes. Brandy is made from grapes. And the list goes on. What all cultures have in common is the existence of at least one such local alcoholic beverage. Is the fact how the beverage is made more important or what name? The actual name used for an alcoholic product is only a marketing package and far more important than the spirit and how it was made.

Alcohol is a great source of revenue worldwide and a highly regulated commodity. Each major country has at least one alcoholic product unique and this product is protected worldwide. The protection of the product makes it a source of income primarily for that country. It make a good deal of economic sense to protect one’s own alcoholic product and protect other countrys’ reciprocally. The import and export of the alcoholic products, between the countries, is a great source of income for everyone involved. The protection of the alcoholic products is essential to future financial gain from this resource. The ideal situation is a monopoly by one country on one product. In the real world, other people may make the same product by using the same method. If they cannot be stopped from using the method, they have to be stopped from using the name. Whisky and whiskey are the same by method but not the same by point of origin. The former is from Scotland and expensive while the latter is from Kentucky and cheap. The product is different and claimed to be superior by the type of local water, the fire used, the quality of air and many subjective factors. The determining factor in price is the name. The protection of the name Whisky provides control over the income.

Cachaca is an obscure product. A product, with a huge local following, but a complete unknown in other countries. If the product is being allowd to sell, some requirements have to be met. In the case of alcohol, the name, and the making of the product are important. Cachaca is basically a type of rum. Rum is a category of alcoholic spirits made from sugar canes and Cachaca is made from the same source by using the same distillation method. The US government categorizes Cachaca as a type of rum rather than a unique spirit of its own and a tiny group of demonstators or clever marketers take it to the streets. The demonstrators argue Cachaca is not a “Brazilian rum” and is Cachaca. It is so unique that it has to have its own name. The method does not make it unique. The name must be unique.

Liquor companies have invented thousands of cocktails. Every occasion, every famous person and everything people remember or celebrate has a cocktail named after. That is the source for the largest number of cocktail names. Is this because there is some significance to the process of naming cocktails? Some may say yes. Economically, the process is invaluable for the spirits companies. Almost every liquor, by itself, is too strong to be drank and needs to be dilluted. The liquid used can be water, juice, soda or anything as long as the density is reduced. The individual cocktail recipe is a great marketing tool. Each person has a different taste and prone to appreciating a specific concoction. This means if enough cocktails are made and marketed, most casual and regular drinkers find something to their taste. The large number of cocktails provides alternatives to attract the largest number of drinkers. The bottom line is spirits need to be sold and anyway they can be marketed is good. The cocktail package is a great marketing scheme and has worked for ages in US. A basic packaging, in absence or presence of cocktail choices, is the protected name for the spirit. Scotch, Tequila, Cognac, and many more are only names but are protected as if they have some great significance. Some have historical, traditional, and regional significance but most of all these names are valuable because they sell the spirit much better than a generic name or no name. The protected name is an invaluable marketing tool.

A typical bar has, at least, three classes of liquors: Well, Call and Top shelf are the minimum three categories. Well liquor is cheap spirit made by not famous producers thus only referred to by its type as vodka, gin, or rum but never the name on the bottle. The name has no worth. Call is slightly better liquor that has a name that is known. The expression Call means the spirit has a name it can be “called” by such as Grey Goose, Tanqueray, etc. This spirit may not be any or much better than the former no-name spirit but has higher price and perceived value because the Call name is known but customers. Top shelf is expensive stuff. The name itself is a value beyond the quality of the contents of the bottle. You can make the best spirit but won’t become a great success until has a name that is well known. You can also make a mediocre spirit that will be a great success because it has a name that is well known. The actual name used to promote the product is far more important than the product itself. Cachaca is “Brazilian rum” but worth a great deal more, when sold, if Cachaca is only Cachaca and not Brazilian rum.

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